10 Favorite Lessons Learned from Two Decades of Animal Care

I’m thrilled to welcome Soul Mate author Ryan Jo Summers to the Power of 10 series. Today, Ryan shares lessons learned from the unforgettable pets in her life.

Here’s Ryan Jo!

ryanjosummersYears ago I was director of a non-profit dog rescue group. Aside from that, I was also active in other animal welfare activities. I also owned a boarding kennel/ pet supply/ training center for a decade sandwiched between working as a veterinary technician. Consequently, many of the animals I have had or known were the largest teachers in my life. Here are ten of my favorites.

Expectations: Becky came to our rescue as a ten month old stray. She was a pretty blue merle Australian Shepherd and something mix. And she had no manners, lessons or skills. She was a mess. Teaching her the basics in obedience was challenging and truthfully, while she was friendly, I did not hold much for her future expectations. She was a wild child, prone to impetuous overreactions.

About ten months after she came to us, a young couple adopted her. One day out of the blue, they called, wanting to share what she had done. Breath held, I waited, expecting the worse.

Seems their toddler son had been in the front yard and tried to bolt into the road. Mom wasn’t fast enough to catch him, but Becky was. Agile on her feet, Becky skillfully blocked the toddler’s advances with her body until Mom could catch him.

Becky- rescue

As great as that was, it got better. About a year later Mom was in the house with a new baby and Dad was out with the young son and Becky. A friend stopped by and the men got to talking. Becky’s frenzied barking erupted like a volcano. Dad followed the barking to the horse pasture, where the son stood, surrounded by horses and Becky stood at his side, barking furiously at the horses. So twice Becky saved the young son and showed me she knew how to rise above other’s expectations.

Will- Rescue II (2)Strength of Character: Will was a collie/ German shepherd left tied to the door of a local animal shelter. He was about a year old. The shelter turned him over to us. He had no obvious problems that I could find. In fact, the more time I spent with Will, the more I fell in love with his character. He was steady under pressure and showed great promise of intelligence, loyalty and patience. I contacted Leader Dog in Rochester, asking for him to be evaluated. He scored great so the decision was made to turn Will over to them for further training.

Several months later we received word Will had graduated and was paired with a human as an official Seeing Eye Dog for the Blind. Will showed me to quietly let one’s character and integrity shine through, without a need for words.

Courage: Spencer was a handsome three-month-old tri-color collie pup when he came to us. His breeder wanted to have him destroyed because he didn’t see well. Once we had him vet checked, he was diagnosed as having no eyeballs. Apparently, he’d been born without eyes forming. We also considered euthanizing him, but he didn’t have any apparent issues with his blindness. Once he cautiously explored a new area, he was unstoppable.

Spencer loved to run and play with the other dogs, his courage knew no boundaries and he truly had the heart of a lion. Within a few months, he was adopted by a couple who had previously adopted two sighthounds from other groups—a Greyhound and a borzoi. The blind pup took no time to learn the perimeters of his new home and yard and quickly settled in with his sighted family.

CalRescueTime: Cal was a homely old soul, about six or seven years old, when he came to us from a neighboring county. He was as sweet and gentle as he was ugly. And he was always horribly car sick. He lived with us for three years, until the age of about nine or ten. While we tried to make him comfortable, he still lived in a shelter environment. He was always passed up by the younger, prettier dogs. Our poor ugly duckling, always staying behind when they found new families.

Finally, I suggested it might be more humane for old Cal to be put to sleep. He could have a dignified end instead of languishing in a shelter his final years. One of the volunteers petitioned for more time for him. I granted her thirty days. It’d been three years, what was another month?

The twenty-nine day rolled around and still no interest in our ugly duckling. Day thirty was already set aside for an out of town adoption event. We were taking a litter of adorable puppies. The volunteer begged to take Cal. It seemed almost cruel to take him, with carsickness, to compete against cute puppies.

A family came by our booth, bypassing the playful pups and honed in on homely Cal. Before we could even finish explaining his long history, they wanted him. Turns out they liked the underdogs. The parents had adopted seventeen human kids, all from underprivileged countries and kept a small pet population. They had groomed goats and ponies, deformed cats and now a sweet old dog named Cal. The placement was such a great one, when we had an ugly duckling puppy later, called Dopey, the family wanted him as well. Dopey kept Cal company until he peacefully passed away at the age of thirteen.

Larkin- rescue (2)Regrets: Not all of my favorite memories are happy ones, but the lessons still linger. We took in a tri-color collie/ something mix stray and called him Larkin. He was unique in both appearance and personality. He was short haired, but not a smooth collie, his ears resembled a bat, his tail was bobbed and his eyes were large, round and red. He had an intense personality, never fully relaxed, never fully trusting, not aggressive but not completely friendly either. A true yin-yang. Due to his red eyes and keyed up demeanor, he tended to scare a lot of people. When he worked for me, he was obedient, yet always wired.

About a year into his stay, I realized Larkin would never make a good pet. Unable to trust him around others, I made the sad choice to have him put down. Many years later, Larkin remains one of my greatest regrets in life. I feel I personally failed him.

Now I see opportunities he might have excelled at. If only we’d have had knowledge or connections, he might have had a better ending. Each time I see a military or police dog at work, I can’t help but wonder if Larkin might have found a good fit in there.

Determination: So much can be written about Kip. A stray mahogany collie we took in as a favor for an overbooked group. I learned volumes about separation anxiety, which was his only real fault. Three times he was adopted out and three times he was returned. He could escape from anywhere and non-compliance was the resounding reason of return. The only time he was content and compliant was when he was at my side. However, the rule was Rescues Don’t Stay. So Kip fell into a slot of not being my dog, but never far from me and mingling in whatever my dogs were doing.

For many years he and I were inseparable. He went from about six when we took him in to about thirteen. His body and mind wore down. Finally I made the painful decision to let him go. Though by rules he was never my dog, he accompanied me south when I divorced and moved. And his quiet determination and eyes on his goal earned him a spot forever in my heart. I will always miss Kip, the big, bad, brown dog who knew unquestionably what he wanted.

Fun: Sometimes caring for animals can be fun as well as rewarding. I did some rehabilitation work for orphaned wildlife. My first squirrel I named Chico. He was so tiny he needed to be bottle fed every three hours and kept on a heated pad. Chico grew and learned to climb—quickly. He went from blind, hairless and helpless to flying from shoulder to shoulder almost overnight.

Chico was great fun as he scampered along my arm, my desk or the furniture. All too soon it was time to move Chico to the outdoors and real trees. He made a few trips up the trees, always returning back to my waiting arm. One day he did not return. For a few days I’d spot a squirrel watching me from atop a limb. Chico was back where he belonged, among his own kind.

Opportunities: While volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center I encountered a domestic rabbit that had been captured in a cemetery. Having always liked bunnies, I took him home and he quickly bonded with the rescue collie, Kip, helping to ease his separation anxiety. When I moved south, Jade and Kip both moved with me. When I got involved in another animal rescue group, it was learned that “I do rabbits”. Suddenly the floodgates opened and I inherited three more. Two were rehomed and one I held on to, naming Delainey. About three later I rehomed him with a sweet little girl who always wanted a bunny.

Jade and Kip (2)

Because of the knowledge I gained from having rabbits, I was able to publish three different articles correcting misconceptions people have about rabbit care. Due to a random opportunity, I also regularly post Easter Bunny warnings, doing my part to slow down the harm done to rabbits each spring.

Trust & Faith: Back in my vet tech days, a client brought a sick kitten in from a feral colony she was caretaker of. The kitten was so wild and fearful, it was difficult to handle her, despite her illness. Over time we bonded and when she was cured, I asked the caretaker if I could adopt her. Kryshnah and I have been together ten years now and her total trust in me still leaves me speechless sometimes. However, for the first four years, no one but me ever saw her when they visited.

ryanjosummerscatsTwo years a smoke tortishell cat showed up at my door one cold November day. She was fearful and hungry. For many long weeks I fed her and tried patiently to let me pet her. Five weeks later I still had not achieved a single ear scratch, but I knew I was making headway because she brought me her month old kitten.

As wild as the winter wind, and no bigger than a dust-bunny, little Avery Faith was determined not to be touched. Gradually mom and daughter’s visits grew more then just a nightly trip. Two years later they live inside and are sweet and loving as any normal cat. Aspen sleeps with me at night, purring contentedly. While visitors still don’t see them yet, I know in time, and with patience, they will trust visitors as much as they trust me.

ryanjosummersdogHope: My last dog died in 2013 at age eighteen. It was nine months before I was ready to replace her. On March 21st, I adopted Ty, a handsome blue merle collie. Ty had spent many years in a terrible hoarding situation. When we first met, he wouldn’t even look at me or let me touch him. I knew what kind of care he would require and I questioned whether I still had that inside me anymore. I had survived a life threatening illness not two years prior and have been battling chronic health conditions, so could I do a service to Ty’s needs?

Hoping so, I finalized the adoption. Now, three months together, his progress has been marked by baby steps, occasional milestones and inevitable backward slips. But we are getting to know—and trust—each other. Our rescue group supporters follow our travels, hoping we succeed.


Ryan Jo Summers is a North Carolina writer who shares her mountain cottage with several rescue pets. She has been infatuated with the written word since early childhood, writing her first book at age ten. She comes from a long line of wordsmiths, in the form of poets and songwriters. She has had numerous articles and essays and one poem published over the years, many of them dealing with animals and nature. Her debut romance novel was published in 2012, followed by two more in 2014 and those will be followed by two more in late 2015/ early 2016. Her hobbies include painting, doodling cartoons, taking her new dog exploring in the regional national forests, visiting with friends, reading, working wiggly wordfind puzzles and playing Mah Jongg.


whencloudsgather‘When Clouds Gather’ is Ryan’s third novel, a suspenseful romance.

Set in tranquil Driftwood Shores, Darby Adams has the perfect life running her bed and breakfast business and caring for her son, Matt and a pack of unwanted animals. Then a guest is found murdered in one of her guestrooms. Suddenly she is the number one suspect.

The surviving family wants to ensure Darby is fully prosecuted so they hire new-in-town Private Investigator Sam Golden to get the evidence that will send her to prison for good. Sam starts his assignment in the guise of a much needed friend for Darby while searching for the evidence to put her away. When strange and scary events begin happening, Sam has to rethink his opinions.

Darby and Sam battle constant dangers, growing closer. Until the day arrives that Sam has to confess his original motives, driving them apart. When a sinister new threat rises, Darby has to decide if she can trust Sam one more time, or risk losing everything.

Where to find Ryan Jo…

Website | Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon

First Act Lessons → Second Act Blessings

14049979_sFormer colleagues, especially those on the cusp of retirement, smile politely and move on to safer topics. Younger friends and relatives frown and ask for clarification. Other creatives prefer to talk about leaving a footprint, sailing beyond the sea of troubles, or discovering new oceans. But to me, the concept of a second act makes more sense. In a play, that’s where the story really takes off and the characters work hard to resolve their conflicts.

A second act is not a “start over from scratch” situation where we erase all the mistakes and lessons of our past. People who continually attempt to relive that first act usually make the same mistakes, encounter frustration and actually make things worse. Unfortunately, we have too many examples of public falls from grace that are continually replicated.

Instead, we should keep in mind William Shakespeare’s advice—What’s past is prologue—and work hard to transform our first act lessons into second act blessings.

Continue reading on Brooke Blogs.

From Schooners to Float Planes…A Writer’s Journey

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author Cheryl Harrington sharing insights from her multi-act life.

Here’s Cheryl!

Act One: Magic

cherylharringtonI wrote my first novel, The Mystery of the Nancy, while on vacation in Wasaga Beach, Ontario. I was twelve years old that summer and my first encounter with the remains of HM Schooner Nancy at a local museum had fired my imagination.

In her glory days, The Nancy was a Great Lakes fur trading vessel. During the War of 1812, she sailed the lakes as a supply ship for the British. Captured and set afire by American forces in 1814, The Nancy sank in Lake Huron near the mouth of the Nottawasaga River.

Over the years, an island formed around the wreck and, eventually, the remains of the schooner were raised and installed in a museum as centrepiece of a park that now bears her name: Nancy Island Historic Site. The old girl had reinvented herself, quite literally, from the ground up. I can’t think of a better tale than HMS Nancy’s to begin a guest post ‘On the Road to Reinvention’. Thanks for having me, Joanne!

That first novel of mine, The Mystery of the Nancy, sparked in me a life-long love of words. It was published in a limited edition of one, in a tatty, blue-covered school notebook, and it met with rave reviews from early readers (Mom, Dad, and Grandma). Sadly, the work was left behind when we returned to the city but, as I recall, my story followed a young sleuth and her chipmunk sidekick as they investigated a mysterious theft from the HMS Nancy Museum.

Storytelling is a powerful thing. Even now, fifty-three years later, I can close my eyes and enter the vast room where the bones of The Nancy rested, watch dust motes drifting in lazy arcs above her hull, and feel the heat of that long-ago summer afternoon. Yes, there is magic in words.


Interlude (Wherein I Become a Hippy)

Time passed, I married, had three wonderful sons and, in a great leap of faith, left city life behind and moved with my young family to a farm north of Toronto. Hubby and I learned by doing. We grew most of our own food in a vast vegetable garden. We raised chickens, pigs, ducks, and rabbits. Each spring, we tapped maple trees and boiled the sap to make our own maple syrup. In winter, we chopped and carried firewood to heat the house. We lived with perpetual drafts, occasional brown snakes in the basement, and noisy raccoons in the attic. I like to call this my hippy back-to-the-land phase – and it was good. (With the possible exception of snakes in the basement.)

Beyond my trusty journal, not much writing was done during those years. Farm and family kept me happily busy.

And then… I met Anne Norman.

Act Two: Writing Rediscovered

Like me, Anne was a back-to-the-lander. We bonded over play dates with our kids, swapped produce – her goat’s milk for my brown, double-yolk hen’s eggs – and talked about books. One of those book talks morphed into a marathon “what-if” plotting session and our first co-authored book, ROCK SOLID was born. I’ve blogged about our co-writing process at stillpoint: The (co)Writing Life so won’t go into it here other than to say we had an awesome amount of fun. So much, in fact, we went on to write another book together, FAST FOCUS. After years of polishing, submitting, rejections, and revisions, both novels were contracted and published by Avalon Books, a small New York publisher of hardcover library editions. Our shared success was a dream come true for us both.

By this time, our children were grown, the city was rapidly advancing on our rural neighbourhood, and both Anne and I had left farm life behind. Eventually, we said farewell to the co-writing life, too, although we remained great friends and left the door open to working together on another book. Meanwhile, I knew I wanted to try my hand at writing solo. All I needed was a spark of inspiration.

And then… I paid a visit to my dentist.

Act Three: On My Own

While sitting the waiting room, nervously trying to distract myself from the drilling and filling to come, I picked up a magazine and was instantly captivated by the cover story. It was a first-person account of a wild fire, written by a young woman who’d spent her summer working as volunteer forest fire fighter. Inspiration struck and SPARKS FLY was born.

Fond memories of camping and cottaging vacations in the north woods merged with my new fascination with floatplanes to bring the remote setting of Casey Lodge to life. I connected with a young bush pilot who’d flown in isolated locations from northern Canada to Africa and revelled in the romance of flying (and the not-so-romantic reality of roughing it alone in the wilderness). I met with a young geologist and picked her brain about the summer she spent working for a mining company near Red Lake in Ontario’s far north. Her stories of surviving a major forest fire helped me write authentically about fire and about life in the north.

During the writing, my family gave me the ultimate birthday gift: a flying lesson. I was terrified! It was an awesome, unforgettable experience and you can share it with me at stillpoint: Writing Wings. Would I do it again? I get the trembles just thinking about it. But yes, absolutely!

SPARKS FLY was originally published in hard cover by Avalon Books for their library program. In the summer of 2013, the Avalon backlist was sold to Amazon Publishing and over the following months, SPARKS FLY, FAST FOCUS, and ROCK SOLID were re-released under the Montlake Romance imprint. All three are now available for Kindle and in paperback and hardcover formats. I’m delighted to see our stories live on for new readers to discover.

Act Four: That Old Magic

In April of this year, I retired from my day job with great expectations for a new and exciting chapter of life. For me, the best part of retirement has been the luxury of time to focus on writing again. I’m working on another sweet romance, set in coastal British Columbia and featuring an independent young woman who’s faced with difficult choices when her beloved grandfather suffers a debilitating stroke. Also in the works is a cozy mystery with a surprising paranormal twist. I knew I was on the right track with this one when the characters ignored my ideas and took their story in a strange and unexpected new direction. And the magic is back!

What’s next? I don’t know. But I’m excited to find out. Stay tuned for Act Five!

Cheryl’s Books


What happens when a thoroughly modern woman, who longs to return to her roots, meets an old-fashioned hero on her first day home? Sparks Fly. And it doesn’t take a forest fire, smoldering in the distance, to turn up the heat between high school science teacher, Logan Paris, and bush pilot, Mitchell Walker.

Logan’s dream of a bright future for her grandfather’s lodge at remote Thembi Lake hits an unexpected snag when Gramps introduces the handsome pilot as his new partner. It seems that Mitch has plans of his own for Casey Lodge, and Logan is certain they don’t include partnership with a “city girl”. Determined to prove herself and protect her heritage, Logan sets out to unravel the many mysteries of Mitch Walker. Where did he come from? Why is Gramps so willing to trust him with their future? And most disturbing of all . . . what’s she going to do about the undeniable attraction she feels whenever he’s around?

Sparks Fly is “a tender, rich romance that will have readers laughing, crying and holding their breaths.”



Rock Solid is a sweet romance about family, special needs, small town life, and environmental protection. Save the turtles!

Fall in love in New York with Fast Focus – part romantic comedy, part cozy mystery…and Rufus the dog!


Cheryl Cooke Harrington is a Canadian author based in Toronto. Her novels have been published by Avalon Books (New York), Ulverscroft Press (London), and most recently by Amazon Books under their Montlake Romance imprint. Cheryl’s stories combine sweet romance with a hint of suspense and adventure. Recently retired from a 40-year career as office manager for a landscape architecture firm, she is currently writing another sweet romance and branching out into mystery – cozy with a twist. Between paragraphs, Cheryl serves as personal assistant to Sam the cat and Jazz the opinionated parakeet.

Where to find Cheryl…

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway

Cheryl will award one copy of SPARKS FLY, winner’s choice of either an autographed library edition (hard cover) OR the Kindle edition, PLUS a $5 Starbucks gift card. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter and notified by email. This giveaway is open to residents of the US, Canada, and the UK. (*See Terms and Conditions, below.)

*Terms and Conditions

Coffee/Tea and a Book: Winner will receive one copy of SPARKS FLY by Cheryl Cooke Harrington, winner’s choice of either autographed hard cover OR Kindle edition, PLUS a $5 Starbucks gift card. Giveaway starts June 26, 2015 at 12:00 AM EST and ends July 7, 2015 at 12:00 AM EST and is open to entries from the US, Canada, and the UK. One winner will be chosen at random via Rafflecopter and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. If the winner chooses to receive a print copy of SPARKS FLY, Cheryl Cooke Harrington will send the prize to the winner directly via postal mail. (NOTE: The book will be mailed from Canada on the next business day after receiving winner’s mailing address. Depending on winner’s location, mail delivery may take several weeks or longer.) The prizes offered for this giveaway are free of charge, no purchase necessary. Facebook and Twitter are in no way associated with this giveaway. By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to Cheryl Cooke Harrington alone. She will not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of contacting the winner.

Joanne here!

Cheryl, thanks for sharing your inspiring journey. Best of luck with all your literary endeavors.

The Right Kind of Skin – Rhino

rhino3It behooves you to develop a thicker skin.

Toastmaster Rosalind Scantlebury did not mince words at a recent Table Topics Contest. Responding to the prompt—Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me—she focused on an individual’s responsibility not to take things so personally. She peppered her impromptu talk with provocative comments, among them, “What other people think of you is none of your business.”

Definitely inspiring, especially for writers.

Thirty-one years of teaching adolescents thickened my skin considerably, but I faced different challenges when I embarked on a writing career. I had to learn how to deal effectively with critiques and rejection letters from agents and publishers and, most important of all, acquire that coveted rhino skin.

Continue reading on Frankie Bow’s blog.

Spotlight on Anne Peterson

I am thrilled to welcome author and poet Anne Peterson. Her journey is an emotional and inspiring one that tugs at the heartstrings.

Here’s Anne!

annepetersonAnne Peterson has to write.

As a little girl Anne felt safe climbing up in Aunt Jeanette’s chair to read A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson. It became a sanctuary from her abusive childhood. Again and again, she’d let his words dance around in her head, and poetry became her language of choice.

In 5th grade, Anne won a creative writing contest. And as she listened to the recording of her reading on the radio, she was hooked.

Anne learned how emotions were tied to her writing. She found the words would flow if she hurt in any way.

Eventually her poetry was sold in stores. One opportunity led to another.

In 1996, she was asked to write Bible studies for christianbiblestudies.com, an affiliate of Christianity Today. And those 42 published Bible studies led to her writing and publishing over 30 magazine articles.

But inside of Anne was a story that begged to be written. She would identify the pain that propelled her writing.

Taking a writer’s online course called Tribe Writers, she learned about writing the scary stuff. With shaky fingers she pressed submit. Each time she wrote something scary, she was really getting ready for something bigger.

petersonbrokenIn 2014, Anne wrote her memoir, Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival. Although the book was initially the story of her sister’s death to domestic violence, Anne felt nudged to write her story as well. Her life was exposed. It was one of the hardest things she ever did, complete with times of panic. She learned to write between those episodes.

Anne discovered the value of being vulnerable. When you write the scary, messy things inside of you, you give hope to other hurting people by letting them know they are not alone.

Anne’s writing became more and more transparent. She shared her struggles with PTSD in an article, A War Without Guns. She continued learning how to embrace her pain instead of running from it.

But who would have known what was underneath? Children’s stories started flowing out of Anne. Then a new door opened. Her daughter Jessica was given an opportunity to create a children’s book. Anne was invited in.

Feeling pressure at the two-month deadline, Jessica said, “I wish we could do something with the art I’ve already done.”

So Anne sat reflecting on her daughter’s art, and Emma’s Wish came to life. It was as if Emma walked right out of Jessica’s painting to tell her own story.

Collaborations with a loved one are like a special dance where you learn each other’s moves. Anne is having the time of her life.

Writing children’s stories is a good fit. After all, she had plenty of practice telling her grandchildren many of these stories from her head.


The Crooked House is a story about a little girl who’s ashamed of where she lives. Kerrie’s house was crooked, and sometimes she felt crooked too.

Lulu’s Lunch tells the story of Lulu and how she dealt with a school bully.

Sonny Follows His Heart is the story of a little blues guitar who discovered whose voice was really important in his life.

And finally, Make Believe: A Book of Poetry Volume One and Volume Two. These poetry books were created as Anne looked at her daughter’s photographs and let the words come. These books will delight readers of all ages.


It’s true that many people love to write, but for Anne Peterson it’s more than that. She has to write.

Where to find Anne…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest

Where to find Jessica’s Art…

Website | Facebook

The Adventures Never End

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have soul-preneur Heather Embree sharing her spiritual journey.

Here’s Heather!

heatherembreeIf you had asked me ten years ago if I would be a professional psychic, spiritual healer and soul coach, I would have never believed you. Back then I was in Toronto, working as an administrator and coordinator for various arts and human rights organizations. I had a stirring inside of me that I knew there was more to life than sitting at desks and debating about the trials and tribulations in the world. I had a spark of creativity, joy and compassion in my being that wasn’t being quenched. I also had a curiousity about the spiritual dimension and knew that I wasn’t listening to this part of me.

One day, when I looked up at the apartment I was living in on Bloor Street West (above a Bridal Store at that), working as a temp for the Ministry of Attorney General, I knew that I was completely out of alignment with my inner dreams and truth. I had managed to live a lie and was quickly going into the quicksand of the superficial modern lifestyle that I used to adamantly avoid. I was a woman who never wanted to marry, have kids or follow a traditional path. I saw myself as a feminist, a renegade, a person who wasn’t afraid to shake up the norm. I had mystical dreams, a love for people and the Earth, was an advocate for conscious consumerism and social justice issues. The bridal gowns and the culture that adores them was the anti-thesis of everything I stood for. I had to make a change.

So I packed up my life in Toronto, aimed to live at least 6 months in a beautiful city called Oaxaca in Mexico, where they revere artists, poets and anyone in alignment with the soul. They appreciated culture, food, bright colours, music, and have a strong faith in something greater. My dream was to live there, but I just couldn’t manage it. So instead, I immersed myself, escaped from my language and cultural influences and allowed myself to walk with trust, faith and guidance in my heart.


Oaxaca is known throughout Mexico to be mystical and magical, and indeed it was. People knew there were illusions behind the poverty and suffering and that there was truth in creativity and goodness. Even in the face of political corruption, violence and everything we hear Mexico to be, there is a heartbeat that lives there so strongly. It as there that my faith in deeper love, synchronicity, and good-hearted people opened up, and I had profound dreams and experiences. I had spiritual visions, cosmic jokes and divine protection throughout my journey. I knew that underneath all of the chaos and busy-ness of life, love and the soul are the Truth, and it was each person’s journey to connect to and live from that place within. When I returned to Canada, I was forever changed. I had faced the greatest loneliness, fears, shadow side of myself and humanity and came out alive and with an entirely different approach to life. I now value relationship over ambition, spiritual guidance over human agendas, and miracles over logic. I see people’s hearts in an entirely different way and know that kindness comes in many forms and faces. I have a gratitude for the people I meet, the food I eat and the doors that open up beyond my expectations. With this perspective, I have allowed the flow of life and love to take over me and this is what led me to where I am now.

For the last 4 years, I have been a professional soul coach, energy healer, intuitive/psychic medium. Every step of the way and every day, I tune into what I need to do next, what it is I need to change. It has not been easy to listen to the soul and the spirit guidance, because we are often called to have to make major changes in our outer life, even our relationships. The experience of change and loss is difficult to bear but my heart has come to know there is wisdom and protection and greater things when I allow the natural order to take its course. So long as I listen and show a willingness to act, I trust that I will be supported in where I need to be, how to serve the greater love and movement needed in the world and ensure I’m in line with the Higher Wisdom. I’ve started support groups, had to learn about the nature of abuse, facilitated healing circles, been to sweat lodges and even ended up doing readings in Washington, DC.


The adventures never end when one is willing to open up to Spiritual Guidance. The trick is gulping, breathing and diving it. I love the analogy that a baby in the womb feels like the end is insight as it gets bigger and bigger and the womb is more uncomfortable. It has no idea what to expect on the other side of life’s experience. This is how I see the adventure of life and death and everything in between. When you know deep in yourself nothing truly ends, love, creativity, authentic living is the Truth of the Universe, then you will be entirely supported in your journey to a new life that makes you happy. The greatest thing you can do is to take time off, listen to your soul, hear what your gifts are and what you feel called to do and be. And reach out to make those dreams happen.


Heather Embree is a soul-preneur in Guelph, ON, who is inspired to help women recover from heartbreak so they can grow in greater self-love. To find out more about her and the work she does, please visit her site here.

Joanne here!

Heather, thanks for sharing your inspiring journey. I look forward to the launch of your children’s book and hope you will consider writing a memoir of your adventures.

Just Keep Swimming

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Soul Mate author Angela Scavone chatting about her rewarding “day job” and creative “after-hours” passion.

Here’s Angela!


Briefly describe your first act.

While I was in high school, during and after college I worked in a retail fabric store for ten years. I loved the creativity of the customers and their plans for the unmade fabric that they purchased. Some of the people I worked with became lifelong friends and there is always something interesting that happens when working in retail :)

What triggered the need for change?

An opportunity came up at a local school board to work in one of their head offices. I couldn’t pass it up! It was a great job that I knew I would learn a lot in so I had to move on.

Where are you now?

Now I still work for the same school board and I have learned so much working there. I am an Application Analyst which means I analyze new computer applications that will enhance student, staff and teacher needs. Once the new application is acquired I test it, implement it into over 160 schools and then train the administration, staff and teachers how to use it. It is a very rewarding job however in my off hours I write. I love my day job but writing is my passion. I have the best of both worlds, during the day I get to be an integral part of a school board community and at night I get to create worlds completely out of imagination :)

Do you have advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act?

Do it. Life is too short for regrets and what-ifs.

Any affirmations or quotations you wish to share?

There are a couple of quotes that get me through any part of my day :)
1. There are two rules in life: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Everything is small stuff.
2. Just keep swimming.



Air Force Captain Stephanie Tyler’s sole duty is to fly overseas to war torn areas of the world to retrieve and escort the bodies of fallen soldiers back home to the United States. It is a tough and emotional job but she is honored for the privilege. Her duty also helps her to escape her past and her failed marriage.

But those flights have become increasingly more dangerous and she is forced to have a partner accompany her. Much to Stephanie’s surprise and dismay, she is partnered up with her ex-husband, Captain Douglas ‘DA’ Aston.

From the moment DA enters the scene, he irritates her. It could have something to do with the fact he slept with her best friend while she and DA were married. As they go on several missions together, Stephanie is forced to be courteous and professional with DA even though the very sight of him irritates her beyond comprehension.

Then, Stephanie’s cheating, husband stealing, ex-best friend is killed in Afghanistan and Stephanie and DA must escort her body home. While executing this difficult duty, a myriad of conflicting emotions makes Stephanie ponder how short life really is . . . and to question her own ability to forgive.

Buy Links

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Where to find Angela…

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads

Joanne here!

Angela, thanks for sharing your journey. I enjoyed reading and highly recommend A Journey Home. Good luck with all your creative endeavors.